• Second Sunday of Lent “A”

    Posted on March 3, 2017 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Introduction:   The Image of a journey for our life is often times used. 

    In today’s first reading, Abraham is called to go on a journey.  His

    attentiveness to the call of God is also followed by a number of

    promises.  In the Gospel we hear of a stopping off place on the journey

    of Jesus, the Mountain of Transfiguration.

        For Catholics throughout the world we are on the Lenten Journey. 

    Last Sunday we paused with Jesus on the Mt. of Temptation.  Today we

    pause at the mountain of Transfiguration.  On the following Sundays of

    Lent this year we will pause with Jesus at the Well of the Samaritan

    woman, will pause with the man born blind, will pause at the tomb of

    Lazarus, will pause to listen again to the Passion story.



       The sermon today will have three points: l) consider the story of

    the transfiguration as told by Matthew; 2) look at the life of Jesus

    according to Matthew in view of the five different mountains that are

    mentioned; 3) try to apply the meaning of the Transfiguration to our


        l) We have the story of the transfiguration in three Gospels, Mark,

    Luke and Matthew.  The sequence these three Gospel writers follow is

    similar.  Jesus exercises his ministry in Galilee, he makes his first passion

    prediction, (In Matthew and Mark, Peter objects) and then we have the

    story of the transfiguration. 

        But the story is slightly different in these three Gospels.  Let us

    look carefully at the differences in Matthew’s account.  First of all

    Matthew is the only one of the three to describe this experience

    with the word, “vision.”  When Matthew describes what happened to Jesus

    he says, “His face became as dazzling as the sun.”  This specific

    description of what happened to Jesus is only in Matthew.  We recall

    Exodus 34:29 “As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets

    of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his

    face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.  33 “he put a

    veil over his face.”  And in the vision of Daniel (10:6) the heavenly

    person is described, “his face shone like lightning.” 

        In Matthew’s account when Peter speaks after the appearance of

    Moses and Elijah he refers to Jesus as Lord.  In Mark Peter refers

    to Jesus as Rabbi, In Luke as Master.  Peter also portrays a 

    submissive attitude before God for

    Matthew says, “with your permission…”  After the voice speaks from the

    cloud Matthew tell us, “When they heard this the disciples fell forward

    on the ground, overcome with fear.” NABR “they fell prostrate and were

    very much afraid.”  These emphases of Matthew turn the picture of Jesus

    to accent his divine majesty.  When we pray for mercy at the beginning

    of Mass we address Jesus as Lord have mercy, we do not pray teacher

    or rabbi have mercy. 

        But the other addition of Matthew gives another particular emphasis

    to the Transfiguration scene as Matthew paints the picture.  Only

    Matthew informs us, “Jesus came toward them and laying his hand on them,

    said ‘Get up! Do not be afraid.” NABR “But Jesus came and touched them

    saying, ‘Rise and do not be afraid.'”  Matthew is careful to portray

    this Jesus in his majesty but also in his tender compassion.


    2)  Our second point is to look at the story of Jesus in Matthew’s

    Gospel with reference to the different mountains he considers.

      (1) As we heard last Sunday the first mountain is the mountain of

    temptation.  Jesus is alone with Satan.  He must make a decision.

    Satan tempts him to be the Messiah of popular expectations. 

    Jesus rejects this temptation and quotes the book of Deuteronomy.  It is

    a turning point in Jesus’ life.   When he comes down from this mountain

    he moves from the south, Judea, to the North, Galilee the region

    near the lake of Galilee and the city of Caparnaum.  He begins his

    ministry of teaching, proclaiming, and healing. 

        (2) The second Mountain is the Mountain on which Jesus gives the

    Sermon on the Mount.  In chapters five to seven we have heard the 

    important teachings of Jesus.  When he comes down from this

    mountain he also does a number of miracles.  He is either accepted

    by people or rejected.  He finally predicts that he must go up to

    Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise from the dead.  This is

    not the type of Messiah the disciples desire.

       ( 3) This leads to the third mountain, the mountain of

    Transfiguration.  Though Peter would like to stay on this mountain Jesus

    goes down from the mountain with the disciples.  Following this

    experience the miracles of Jesus decrease.  Jesus tries mightily to

    convince his disciples of the kind of Messiah he must be, to give his

    life for others. 

        (4) This leads to the fourth mountain (the mount of Olives followed

    by) Mount Calvary.  Here Jesus dies for us.  What he taught in words in

    the sermon on the Mount he now teaches in deed.  But the journey does

    not end, this time his body is taken down and laid in a tomb.  But death

    does not triumph over Jesus.  On the third day he rises from the dead. 

    He appears to the apostles.  

        (5) This leads to the fifth mountain, the mountain of commissioning. 

    The apostles gather and Jesus commissions them to continue his mission

    of teaching to the ends of the earth.  They are to baptize and he

    promises to be with them till the end of time.


    3) Lessons or applications for us from this Sunday.  The first lesson is

    that for the Christian ashes, the human condition, sin and death are a part of our

    life and experience.  But for us the promise of transfiguration,

    grace and glory are also to be part of our experience.   What happened

    to Jesus can also happen to us.  Transfiguration of Jesus also assures

    us that within each of us there are extraordinary possibilities,

    potentials for good.  God can also shine through us. 

        A psychologist, Abraham Maslow, said that part of the experience of a

    well adjusted person is what he called, “peak experiences.”  These

    experiences frequently involve wonder, awe, feeling of oneness with the

    universe, and a loss of self.  As we look at the mountain experiences of

    Jesus we can see that, though different, each one was special.  This

    Sunday we are called perhaps to reflect on the mountain or peak

    experiences in our lives.  Jesus had to come down from the mountain each

    time, except for the last time.  Our life too alternates between highs

    and lows.  Many times we return to a valley of tears.  But the promise

    of Transfiguration is also ours.  This is the reason we have the

    penitential season of Lent to be open to the call from God to ever

    greater conversion, to a more open heart.

        The Transfiguration experience as described by Matthew reminds us

    that in Jesus we have a person of divine majesty.  He has the power and

    ability to change us and situations in our life.  But we also have a

    Jesus of tender compassion.  He wishes to touch each of us and tell us

    not to be afraid._

        There is nothing magic about Lent or Ashes.  If we do nothing during

    Lent we will come to the end of Lent and will experience nothing. Lent

    is a time to deepen our understanding of the teachings of Jesus, perhaps

    to read each day from the Gospel of Matthew. We cannot call ourselves

    Christians if we do not know what are the teachings of Jesus. If we

    undertake Lenten practices, the promise is we will experience

    transformation and transfiguration in us too.

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